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What will be the real impact if Uber and Lyft stop trips to Sky Harbor over increased fees?

Posted at 7:27 PM, Jan 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-10 21:27:00-05

PHOENIX — This time next month, it might become a bit trickier to get to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor.

On December 18, the Phoenix City Council voted to increase curbside pickup fees for rideshare companies from $2.66 to $4, as well as adding a new curbside drop-off fee of $4 starting on February 1. Both fees will increase 25 cents a year until they cap at $5 in 2024.

The vote caused Uber and Lyft, the country’s largest rideshare operators, to vow to discontinue service to Sky Harbor when the fee goes into effect. If service is suspended, Sky Harbor will be the nation’s only major metropolitan airport without rideshare.

According to a report released by Sky Harbor, the airport assessed more than 2.1 million curbside pick-up fees in 2019, a number that does not include a figure for December. A city spokeswoman recently acknowledged that rideshare companies are 80 percent of all commercial ground traffic at the airport.

This begs the question, does the airport have a contingency plan to handle this considerable drop in ground transportation options for travelers?

We reached out to Sky Harbor for an answer. A spokesperson for the airport told us:

“There are a variety of transportation options to/from Phoenix Sky Harbor. In fact, more than 700 other providers are ready to pick up and drop off passengers at the airport. Taxi companies, town cars, limousines, etc. are anticipating and prepared for added pick-ups and drop-offs. With 45 million passengers per year and growing, people will continue to come and go from Sky Harbor. The ways they have done that over the years has and will continue to change. Ground transportation businesses and parking companies can choose to operate and passengers can choose their mode of access. A complete list of providers can be found at”

We followed up with the airport asking where people could find a list of the 700 providers. We did not receive a response.

The monthly ground transportation report gives a summary of available transportation options to and from Sky Harbor. The second-largest category of transportation was Taxis.

In 2018 Taxis only made 459,046 assessed trips, a 42 percent drop from 2015, a year prior to rideshares being an available option. If the taxi companies are expected to fill the gap that will be left when rideshare companies pull out, they will have to increase capacity by 500 percent.

Cost may become a factor in this as well. We used this fair estimator provided by one of the taxi companies to an address in Gilbert.

We then did the same comparison at the same time of day with Uber’s estimating tool and the difference was staggering. The taxi company wanted $56 for a trip that Uber estimated at $23.

So unless something is worked out between the city and the rideshare companies, it might be better to ask a friend for a ride to the airport in the near future.